New to the series? Begin with Part I: “How Do You Know When You’re Ready to Write a Business Book?”
By now, you know what your book is about. You have an outline, and possibly a first draft. You may even have started thinking about titles, which publishers to approach, your book tour … of course you’re getting ahead of yourself; you’re starting to see the light!
Sorry to be the bearer of annoying tidings, but now is when the real work begins.
Hold up- before you throw something at this blog (what do you mean “the real work?” what do you think I’ve been doing for months already; making waffles??), let yourself bask in all that you’ve done to get to this point. You have a first draft of a book! That’s phenomenal!
All that slogging away every day has begun to show you the essence of the book that you will ultimately share with your clients and customers- in perpetuity- to support your business. That’s no small thing, and you should feel very proud. Many people- strong, capable, smart people- do not make it this far.
The other good news is this next step is the fun part: you get to begin shaping the material and make your book- as you will come to know it- come to life.
It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.
– C. J. Cherryh
The Difference between Writer and Editor
The Writer: Oh, the first draft writer is lovely. She smells like sandalwood and wears long flowing skirts that flare out so nicely while she whirls and creates.
The Editor: the editor is a calculating thin-eyed lizard creature who must be proficient at both chess and Jenga. (Note: some editors would take offence to this visual, but I’m an editor, and it cracks me up, so I’m rolling with it).
Editor, Self Portrait. Photo credit: Holger Link
The Big Shift
Is it fair that you have to shift from one radically different state to another to get your book written? Why didn’t anyone tell you about this?
For the record, no, it is not fair, but life’s not fair a lot of the time, and, being resourceful, we manage to find our way.
Going from writer to editor means doing a complete 180; to get your first viable draft borne of all your unconscious thoughts let loose to the surface, you’re required to shift from being a right-brained free-thinking “go-for-it” hippie person into a stern strategist who must now comb through the draft to identify and juggle numerous logistical components at once so the book is structurally sound, cohesive in tone, purposeful in intent, and dynamically voiced.
So whether it’s fair you have to do this isn’t the issue- it simply must be. And let’s not even touch how you also eventually will have to become a website builder, blogger, social media expert, brand management guru, publications consultant, and and and … which we will hold off on for now.
For now, what matters is that you prepare yourself to shift: your days as a writer are over. You’re an editor now.
Why Is Shifting from Writer to Editor Necessary?
You can’t “kill your darlings” (famously said by Southern American short story writer Flannery O’Connor) if you’re not thinking critically just as you can’t give over to your unconscious mind if you’re thinking analytically.
Photo credit: Jorge Lopez
Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones, talks about how you have your writer hand and your editor hand and if you clench them together, logistically you can’t write a thing. It’s a great visual to understand how and why you now have to let go of your earlier self and become one who views your work as if you were an outsider, one who must now keep her eye on the architecture of the book, so it’s built properly, soundly, and reads well.
You’ve done the good creative work of brainstorming, ideas sourcing, and considering how you would bring yourself to this book. Now it’s time to hunker down and begin shaping it to optimize it for the reading experience.
Hello, Book Editor. Welcome.
Light a candle and wish your writer self well; as you embark upon revising your book for your business, you now can swish your scaly tail and get to work overall, chapter by chapter, and line by line from the other side: intuiting what your reader will want, will or won’t understand, and what will provide her with the best reading experience possible.
Not sure what to look for as you begin to revise your book? Fear not; in our next blog, we’ll talk about precisely the items of business you want to be on the lookout for from overarching issues of development and flow down to the micro issues of language and sentence structure as you sculpt your draft with a free checklist download.